The Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing

Getting your book accepted by a traditional publisher is a major accomplishment: it validates your hard work and connects you with industry professionals. But you also stand to lose a lot of creative control. Learn the pros and cons of traditional publishing so you can plan your publishing strategy.

The Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing

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PROS

If a traditional publisher takes on your manuscript, you know you're good.

Landing a deal with a traditional publisher is extremely difficult. If you're talented enough to get a traditional publisher to take you on, that's fantastic validation.

They make print distribution easier.

Traditional publishers are experts at print distribution. Their sales reps will make sure your book lands on shelves.

You get to work with a team of professionals.

If you want to focus mostly on writing, you're in luck -- traditional publishers offer teams of expert editors, cover designers, typesetters, and sometimes marketers.

You don't have to pay anything upfront and you'll usually receive an advance.

Traditional publishers do not ask for money upfront, so if you're asked for money, beware. Most authors also receive an advance against royalties, giving them a guaranteed minimum profit.

Many literary prizes are open only to traditionally published authors.

In most cases, self-published authors aren't even allowed to participate in literary prizes, so by publishing traditionally, you keep the door open for the biggest literary awards.

You have a better chance of making a name for yourself.

Most authors don't become world-famous, but those who do tend to go through traditional publishers. Signing with a traditional publisher increases your chances of joining the ranks of Stephen King and J.K. Rowling.

Publishing with a reputable house brings prestige.

Readers, especially the literary crowd, trust the judgment of major publishers. If a publisher is willing to invest in your book, readers are more likely to see it as valuable.

You'll more easily gain access to literary events.

Traditional publishers facilitate authors' entry to events such as festivals, talks, and book readings, which are important for your marketing efforts.

CONS

It takes an extremely long time.

It could take a year to find an agent and another year to land a publishing deal -- and then it could take up to two years for the publisher to release the book! It's rarely a fast process.

You lose creative control over your book.

As soon as you sign a contract, you lose the right to make a lot of creative decisions about your book. You may be dissatisfied with the final title, cover design, and marketing angle, and you probably won't be able to do anything about it.

Royalty rates are incredibly low.

Royalty rates vary, but they're always low, ranging from around 5% to 25%. A 25% royalty rate is generous when going through a traditional publisher.

Most traditional publishers don't offer a lot of marketing assistance.

In most cases, authors have to build up their own fan bases and design their own marketing plans. It can be difficult to even find an agent if you don't have some sort of existing audience.

You're signing over your rights.

Read the contract carefully to know exactly what rights you're granting the publisher.

Getting accepted for publication is extremely difficult.

Traditional publishers receive countless manuscripts from hopeful authors, but they can publish only so many. The process of rejection isn't for everyone.

Important:

You don't have to decide between traditional publishing and self-publishing. You can attempt to publish traditionally by sending out query letters, and if it doesn't work out after a few months, you can self-publish instead.